Valley Watch, colleagues finally win one in an Indiana court

September 8, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

On Monday, September 8, 2014, Valley Watch, along with steadfast colleagues, Citizens Action Coalition, Sierra Club and Save the Valley, achieved a rare victory in the Indiana Court of Appeals. BIRD WO ADDRESSbevel

Duke Energy expects its customers to pay for its mismanagement, fraud and cost overruns at its nefarious, Edwardsport Generating Station in Knox County. In nearly ever one of the thirteen “dockets” Duke has initiated before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, whatever Duke has proposed has been pretty much rubber stamped by the Commission.

That was the case, even when then Governor Mitch Daniels was forced to fire the Chair of the Commission, David Hardy,

David Lott Hardy declares his support for Duke's then proposed plant at the "Energy Summit of Southwest Indiana" the day after he presided over a public hearing in Bloomington that discussed the plant's future. Photo © 2007 John Blair

David Lott Hardy declares his support for Duke’s then proposed plant at the “Energy Summit of Southwest Indiana” the day after he presided over a public hearing in Bloomington that discussed the plant’s future. Photo © 2007 John Blair

under serious ethics violations due to the cozy relationship Hardy had with Duke management. In that scandal. Hardy’s protege, Scott Storms, who served as Chief Administrative Law Judge in many of the dockets applied for and got a job as Duke attorney while continuing to oversee the numerous cases.

Duke and the Daniels Administration pretty much ignored the reality of the cost of building the project (hear Valley Watch president, John Blair’s testimony before the IURC in a field hearing in August of 2007 in which he predicts, accurately, the future cost involved in building the plant here). Originally, Duke and Daniels claimed the plant would cost only $1.985 Billion but the final cost has risen to over $3.5 billion

In one of the recent dockets, the coalition of the four groups, each of which has intervened in all the rate cases, knew they had been screwed by the Commission and took the case to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals determined that the commission had failed in its duty to protect ratepayers and that they should revisit a significant decision that had ratepayers pay $61 million to Duke for a plant that has yet to operate correctly in the more than a year it has been in service.

James Atterholt, currently serves as Chief Of Staff for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence was chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.  Photo © 2011 John Blair

James Atterholt, currently serves as Chief Of Staff for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence was chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Photo © 2011 John Blair

Currently, Duke is suing the constructor, Bechtel,  and equipment manufacturer , General Electric and both of them have in turn sued Duke in what has become a morass of attorneys and lawsuits.

It is anticipated that Duke will seek a re-hearing by the Court of Appeals or transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Valley Watch has long fought stupid ideas like Edwardsport, using mostly economic arguments to make our case. Unfortunately, the level of cronyism in Indiana’s government and the revolving door between government and the industry government is supposed to regulate, has precluded mush success over the seven years this case has been open.

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Finally, after several days of BAD air, IDEM issues an air quality alert of SW Indiana

August 27, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

In case you have not noticed, lately, air quality has been pretty bad around Evansville for several days now. Yesterday, afternoon, fine particles reached a horrible level- 63.97µg/m3, almost twice the outdated 24 hour health standard of 35µg/m3. And they remained high throughout the evening and into today.

UPDATE: This is the "near real-tine data for August 27 that was available at 5 PM. Obviously, it shows a serious problem. Data can be found at:http://idem.tx.sutron.com/cgi-bin/daily_summary.pl and lookingg for the Buena Vista monitor

UPDATE: This is the “near real-tine data for August 27 that was available at 5 PM. Obviously, it shows a serious problem. Data can be found at:http://idem.tx.sutron.com/cgi-bin/daily_summary.pl and lookingg for the Buena Vista monitor.

Levels were particularly high during practice and game time for school age athletes and band members who were not even aware that they were being subjected to such foul air.

Valley Watch has long sought a policy from the local school corporations to forego practices and games when air quality is an issue.

Our pleas have basically been dismissed by school officials and last night as particulate rose to high levels, kids were practicing and playing their chosen sports with the same intensity they would have been if the air quality had been healthy instead of unhealthy.

Health science is replete with knowledge that high particulate cause such issues as stroke, asthma, cancer, heart attacks, etc. and students whose lungs are not fully developed are  vulnerable to being negatively impacted by high levels of pollution.

Valley Watch suggests that you call your local school board members demanding that they develop some sort of health based policy to deal with games and practices when air quality is poor in the region. And such a policy should not be only when an air pollution “alert’ is in place but when levels are bad enough to cause harm.

The reason for that caveat is that local and state environment officials have often failed to issue timely alerts until after the air quality has become dangerous, like yesterday when no alert was issued at all.

It is our view that schools should call off games and practices when air quality is bad, whether it is particles or ozone or any of the criteria pollutants. Further, since the local EPA has a record of failing to call alerts when they should, there should be someone in each school system to monitor air quality on days when the air is visible like it has been for the last week and when it gets near the health based standard for any criteria pollutant, they should act with haste to protect their students’ health first and foremost.

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The absolute best five minutes of your day – Birds of Paradise

August 25, 2014 – by the Birds of Pardise Project-New Guinea, Cornell University

Words are not necessary to describe this wonderful photography

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Duke Energy spills from 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Ohio River near Cincinnati

August 19, 2014  – UPDATE- USEPA serving as on-scene coordinator in Emergency Response to Ohio River Spill EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is serving as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the emergency response to an oil spill that occurred last night when approximately 3500 gallons of diesel fuel was released into the Ohio River from Duke Energy’s Beckjord power plant. Twenty-four hour operations are underway to contain and clean up oil along a 12 mile stretch of the Ohio River immediately upstream from Cincinnati.

“U.S. EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard and Ohio EPA quickly mobilized and are taking a series of steps to minimize the damage this spill does to the Ohio River and surrounding communities,” said U.S. EPA Incident Commander Steven Renninger. “U.S. EPA is on the scene to ensure the leaked oil is contained and cleaned up as quickly and effectively as possible.”

A containment boom is deployed on the Ohio River to deal with a fuel oil spill. (Photo by Dwayne Slavey)

A containment boom is deployed on the Ohio River to deal with a fuel oil spill. (Photo by Dwayne Slavey)

U.S. EPA has established a unified command with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Pierce Township. U.S. EPA is directing response efforts carried out by Duke Energy. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, U.S. EPA has the responsibility for inland oil spills.   

Boom was deployed in the Ohio River to contain the spill. Sheen extends approximately 12 miles from Duke’s plant down the Ohio River toward Cincinnati. The U.S. Coast Guard closed 15 miles of the river to vessel traffic.

As a precaution, the Greater Cincinnati Waterworks and the Northern Kentucky Water District each closed drinking water intakes on the Ohio River. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is conducting water sampling on the river.

For updates on the response to this oil spill, go to www.epa.gov/region5/newsevents/duke-energy-spill/

August 19, 2014 – by Lisa Benson, Cincinnati Business Courier

Duke Energy reported a significant spill of diesel fuel into the Ohio River on Monday night.Dupe-Energy-Logo-trans

According to a company statement, about 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the waterway during a routine transfer of fuel oil at the W.C. Beckjord Station. The Clermont County power plant is about 20 miles east of the city of Cincinnati. It is slated to close by Jan. 1, 2015.

The spill lasted about 15 minutes and was stopped at 11:30 p.m., according to Duke. The Charlotte, N.C.-based energy company is working with local, state and environmental agencies.

“We notified state and local authorities of the incident and have been working with them throughout the overnight hours,” saidChuck Whitlock, Duke Energy president of Midwest Commercial Generation and vice president of gas operations. “We have cleanup crews on site that are identifying the appropriate actions that will be needed to remediate.”

The Hamilton County Emergency management Agency reported that the U.S. Coast Guard has closed a 15-mile section of the river (between river miles 453 and 468). Three public water intakes between the Beckjord plant and the Licking River confluence are shut down, as well.

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Legislature Receives Report Detailing Success of Energizing Indiana

August 19, 2014- Press Release from Citizens Action Coalitioncitact_logo_2010

Discontinued programs delivered over $3 in benefits for every $1 spent

On August 15th, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) submitted the Demand Side Management (DSM) Report to the Indiana General Assembly. The report, completed by The Energy Center of Wisconsin, was filed pursuant to the highly controversial Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 340 which will end the Energizing Indiana programs by the end of 2014.

“The report all but confirms that the passage of SEA340 and the ultimate cancellation of Energizing Indiana was a shortsighted decision and a monumental mistake that will cost ratepayers more money in the long run. This is in addition to the thousands of Hoosiers likely to lose their jobs as a result of the legislation,” stated Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of CAC. “If SEA340 was indeed a ‘pause’ to evaluate the programs, then we ask our elected officials to hold true to their promise and reinstate the programs during the 2015 session.”

Highlights of the report include:

• The report states on page 5: “The Core programs provided positive net benefits for the Hoosier state. In the aggregate, these programs returned as much as $3.00 in benefits for each dollar spent from 2012 through 2013. The Core program for commercial and industrial customers provided the most benefits— as much as $5.49 for each dollar spent.”

• On page 21, the report noted that in future years when energy efficiency savings may be more difficult to find, that “…programs are expected to produce overall positive net benefits to Indiana through 2019…programs are expected to return $1.65 in benefits for every $1.00 spent [on average, from 2015- 2019].”

• On page 23, the report points out that “So if the objective is to keep utility bills low, efficiency programs are essential.” The IURC will present the report to the Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications on September 2nd. The complete IURC report is attached and can also be found at:

http://www.in.gov/iurc/files/DSM_Report_to_General_Assembly_w_Cover_Letter_8-15-2014(1).pdf

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NASA Finds 2013 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

July 16, 2015 – by  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.

With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which analyzes global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated report Tuesday on temperatures around the globe in 2013. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience temperatures warmer than those measured several decades ago.

The average temperature in 2013 was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit (14.6 degrees Celsius), which is 1.1 °F (0.6 °C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline. The average global temperature has risen about 1.4 °F (0.8 °C) since 1880, according to the new analysis. Exact rankings for individual years are sensitive to data inputs and analysis methods.

“Long-term trends in surface temperatures are unusual and 2013 adds to the evidence for ongoing climate change,” GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said. “While one year or one season can be affected by random weather events, this analysis shows the necessity for continued, long-term monitoring.”

Scientists emphasize that weather patterns always will cause fluctuations in average temperatures from year to year, but the continued increases in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere are driving a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each successive year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before, but with the current level of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat and plays a major role in controlling changes to Earth’s climate. It occurs naturally and also is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. Driven by increasing man-made emissions, the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere presently is higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.
gistemp_nino_sWhile the world experienced relatively warm temperatures in 2013, the continental United States experienced the 42nd warmest year on record, according to GISS analysis. For some other countries, such as Australia, 2013 was the hottest year on record.The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, measured at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, was about 315 parts per million. This measurement peaked last year at more than 400 parts per million.

Continue reading

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Please do not end up like this

July 10, 2014-by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

John Garrish Face web

This is what I looked like after three weeks of treatment for squamous cell carcinoma using the chemotherapy called Efudex®. It was no laughing matter how people reacted to seeing such a grotesque face. Photo © BlairPhotoEVV

When I was a kid, all I wanted for summer vacation was a trip to the beach. Sun, sun, and them some more sun. Yes, there was a price to pay. Not only did I spend numerous nights, shivering and almost convulsing in bed but also condemning myself to a future where I would have to avoid the sun as much as possible.

Yes, skin cancer is real and although it comes in numerous forms, including oft deadly melanoma. In fact, the experts say that a single severe sunburn as a child yields a 50% greater chance of getting melanoma as an adult.

Of course, I tried many things to ease the pain. Once on a Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach, someone even suggested I spread motor oil on my extremely red body. Of course that did not work any more than the vinegar solutions my mother tried to quell my pain as an even younger child.

As an adult, I have had the two  less dangerous forms of skin cancer-squamous cell and basal cell both of which can be disfiguring.

Today, however, there is a modicum of protection available and you can go to: http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/ to find the best and the worst of sunscreens.

But a word of warning, the best protection is to completely avoid as much sun exposure as possible. This is especially so for tanning booths since they present a huge dose of Ultra Violet radiation that even the clearest skin can have troubles dealing with.

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Reactionary response to carbon rule is misguided

June 6. 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

EPA“Every means at our disposal” is the way that Indiana Governor, Mike Pence asserts he will fight regulations proposed on June 2 by the USEPA designed to turn the corner on the global warming crisis.

Pence claims the rules will devastate the State’s coal based economy although the rule only requires Indiana to make a relatively small reduction of 20% of CO2 emissions within 16 years.

EPA proposes some coal burning be replaced by a combination of solar energy, wind and, yes, energy efficiency. All those energy sources cost far less to produce than new coal and our aging coal fleet is in dire need of some true upgrades because of their age. Making those upgrades is what will cause Hoosiers to pay significantly higher electric bills in the future, not renewables and efficiency.

Efficiency and renewables, solar, wind, geo-thermal and hydro are labor intensive and create jobs.

Photo © 2010 John Blair.

Photo © 2010 John Blair.

 

Problem is, Pence allowed a stupid law (SEA 340) passed in the last legislature eliminating Indiana’s nascent efficiency program to be scuttled before it even had a real chance to work. Sadly, energy efficiency costs consumers far less than new coal. Most states report the cost of efficiency to be less than $.05/kWh. Compare that to the cost of electricity produced by Duke’s new, not so clean coal plant at Edwardsport of more than $.20/kWh.

If Pence and his knee jerk minions in and out of government, had actually read the proposed rule instead of blindly assuming the role of regressive coal protectors –in-chief, they would have discovered that EPA’s proposal is very gracious to Indiana, Kentucky and other coal states in requiring significantly less reductions of CO2 in those states than in states that are not so heavily reliant on the dirty fuel.

No one is advocating the wholesale elimination of coal resources today or in the future. Not EPA, not Valley Watch nor anyone we even know. But, anyone who cares about the health of both the planet and their grand children understand that we need to do something to stop the ravages of global warming and climate change.

It is Pence’s backwards thinking that will suppress Indiana’ s economy as we continue our unhealthful addiction to the past. Instead of looking forward and embracing the 21st Century, using clean energy sources at affordable prices, our Governor seems bent to relinquish control over our energy future to coal barons who are more than happy to destroy the health and ecosystems that remain in southwest Indiana.

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EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Comes to Agreement on Ozone Standard Recommendation

June 4, 2014 – by Gretchen Goldman, analyst. Center for Science and Democracy

Cloud O3Today the EPA’s chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) agreed on a recommendation to Administrator McCarthy regarding an update to the ambient air pollution standard for ozone (To get up to speed on the ozone standard update process, seemy previous post on the topic). The deliberation of the committee and the Ozone Review Panel exemplified the challenges of translating science to policy and it was clear that the scientific experts on the panel had differing opinions on how this should be done.

What does the science tell us about ozone and health?

The Clean Air Act charges CASAC with recommending a value (or as they typically do, a range of values), to the EPA administrator based on what limit on pollution levels the science indicates will be protective of public health with an adequate margin of safety.

What should that value be for ozone? The panel agreed that 60 parts per billion (ppb) should be the lower limit of the range (note: this is the same lower limit that CASAC recommended in 2011). The committee concluded that 60 ppb continues to be the lowest level for which we have strong scientific evidence of health benefits. But what should the upper limit of the range be?Black Asthma

One way the committee thinks about this question is by focusing on susceptible populations, including children and the elderly. For these groups, we see marginal improvements in health outcomes at lower concentration of ozone, i.e. there are incremental improvements for lower and lower ozone levels. With this observation in the health studies, what then is the least restrictive standard that we consider to be “protective of public health with an adequate margin of safety”? The committee agreed that an upper limit of 72 ppb was inadequate to protect public health and that 70 ppb may be protective but only with a limited margin of safety.  Some members of CASAC pushed to go as low as 65 ppb based on scientific evidence, while others felt that there wasn’t sufficient evidence for this recommendation. “The question of what is an adequate margin of safety is a policy question, not a science one,” argued one CASAC member. Continue reading

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USA finally takes some action on Climate Change

June 2, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Power Plants w-o data TriState Proposed small

The numerous coal power plants that permeate the SW Indiana and W Kentucky alone routinely emit more than 100 million tons of CO2 each year, making this region among the biggest contributors to the global problem.

June 2, 2014 will certainly go down in history as a potential turning point in the way humanity deals with the whole crisis of climate change and global warming. Today, EPA finally began to take action to quell carbon emissions from coal fired power plants by issuing a proposed rule to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by 2030.

It’s not as though the action taken was “draconian” as it was described by Senate Minority chair and Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, however.

Apparently McConnell did not bother reading the proposed rule since Valley Watch would describe it more as a guidance document than a rule, leaving all sorts of options for the individual states to pursue meeting some rather lenient goals suggested by EPA on an effort that is a full 20% below the level scientists tell us is needed to have a real impact on our collective future.

But clearly it was not only McConnell who failed to study the proposal and reacted in a knee jerk fashion. Indiana Governor Mike Pence claims the State will fight the proposed rules which mainly call for increased use of renewable energy, efficiency and conservation while assuring the public that coal, oil and gas, the fossil fuel trifecta will remain in America’s future. Of course, Pence just recently allowed for the Indiana legislature to end Indiana’s successful energy efficiency program called “Energize Indiana.”

Already, we are well on our way to complying with the proposal, having various utilities announce the retirement of several large and small existing coal plants. Coal’s day has past and even if McConnell and Pence refuse to acknowledge it, the reduced price of natural gas and the ever increasing price of burning coal, both old and new, have given coal the boot in the marketplace, one that is mostly loved by the Republican rightwing.Melting globe

Had Indiana chosen to continue its successful efficiency program and embraced this tremendous opportunity to alter the energy paradigm instead of fighting it, Indiana could be a leader. Sadly we are opting to see the rest of the world leave us behind in some bizarre notion that the status quo is better than progress.

Yes, there is no doubt that some number of coal miners will be out of a job and it appears that coal companies like Peabody will likely see their stock value decline and some of that can be ascribed to this rather weak rule. But, in the end, there are far better economic opportunities in efficiency, renewables and conservation that continuing to prop up the coal dinosaur.

EPA estimates that their new rule will cost a lot of money, $7.3 to $8.8 billion each year. But they also say that the benefits from implementation of the rule will be a whopping $55 to $93 billion each year.

The rule also will benefit public health. According to EPA’s analysis including avoiding annually:

• 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths

• 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children

• 340 to 3,300 heart attacks

• 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions

• 470,000 to 490,000 missed school and work days

Since the tri-state is where much of the action will take place, it can be assumed that this region will profit substantially from these health benefits.

Valley Watch has been a long supporter of addressing climate change and is proud of our record in stopping numerous coal plants around the country with the help of our colleagues.

However, we would prefer the use of a “Carbon Tax” which would be at least partially “revenue neutral.” But we acknowledge that under the current political make up in Washington, such a plan has no place in reality. Thus, we applaud today’s action and consider it a possible turning point on dealing with the global warming crisis.

To learn more and download the proposed rule, including supporting materials go to: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule

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America’s Dirty Secret: Coal Ash

May 14, 2014 – A Production of LinkTV.  Editor’s Note: Indiana and Southwest Indiana in particular is home to numerous massive coal ash dumps that were not featured in this video. Indiana Government has simply looked the other way as generally docile communities are left frustrated and sick. EPA is supposed to issue new rules governing the disposal of coal ash and other residues by December 19, 2014, more than four years after they received more than 500,000 comments f rom citizens seeking strong regulation.

People in three adjacent Pennsylvania communities suffer from a rare blood cancer. In Juliette, Georgia, where radioactive water flows from the tap, people are also getting sick. What else do these communities have in common? Coal ash. Some 130 million tons of it is generated in the US each year. It contains toxins like lead, arsenic and mercury and it gets into ground water from unlined pond and pit storage sites. The federal government says it’s non-hazardous and regulation is left to state governments where the coal industry has great influence. And it’s always people who suffer the consequences.

 

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Unregulated Coal Ash Ponds Pose Environmental Threat in Indiana

May 2, 2014 – by Jimmy Jenkins, WTIU News

This is part one of a two-part series on coal ash ponds in Indiana. Part 2 is now available at: http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/coal-ash-ponds-pose-contamination-risk-drinking-water-66894/

In the neighborhood of East Mt. Carmel, residents like to live a simple country life.

They fish in the nearby Wabash River, they get around on their dirt bikes and ATVs and go to church.

But several years ago the quality of life here was threatened. East Mt Carmel is located just across the street from the third largest coal-fired power plant in the world.

The Gibson Duke plant burns approximately 8 million tons of coal each year.

What Coal Ash Is And How It’s Regulated

There are many byproducts but coal ash or fly ash has the most potential for contamination.

“This is generated in what we call a pulverized coal burner which takes very small particles of coal, burns them at high temperature, typically over 1,100 degrees Celsius,” says Tracy Branam, a geochemist with the Indiana Geological Survey, says as he holds a glass container filled with fly ash.

Duke stores more of it at this plant than any other place in the state: almost 17 million tons, and that figure doesn’t include other ash stored on site, including ash in landfills and structural fills

One of the most common ways is simply to dig a large pit and store it on the power plant site.

And sometimes water is added to the ash so it can be moved around through pipes and stored in ponds. There are 74  of these ponds in Indiana, which is more than any other state in the country.

They can dwarf the size of other man-made reservoirs, but unlike typical landfills, they’re almost entirely unregulated.

They don’t have to be lined like municipal waste landfills so the ash can and does leach into the surrounding area and water table.

In most cases, power plant owners are supposed to get a permit from the Department of Natural Resources if they want to build a coal ash pond on their property.

But the reality is that rarely happens.

“Some of the dams in the state in the ash ponds have gone through our permit process. I would say the majority of them have not,” says Kenneth Smith, the assistant director with the DNR’s water division. “Some are inspected that we had been aware of through going through the permit process. There are likely others out there that should have gone through the process but didn’t.”

When asked why the companies haven’t gone through the process, Smith said the companies’ officials would have to answer that.

“Why they would do that I don’t know,” he said.

Smith says a recent survey from the EPA showed several  power companies had built coal ash ponds without seeking a permit.

“There were many on that list that were ones that were not in our inspection program they had never gone through our permit process,” Smith says. Continue reading

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Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Coughed, Wheezed in February

May 1, 2014-by Paul Chesser in the National Legal and Policy Center. Editor’s note: Valley Watch has been an intervener in every one of what is now thirteen “dockets” before the IURC regarding this plant. 

Dupe-Energy-Logo-dirtyAfter the global warming-battlingEdwardsport coal gasification power plantused more power than it generated during the September-to-November timeframe, earlier this month information filed with the IndianaUtility Regulatory Commission showed theDuke Energy facility operated at less than 1 percent of capacity in February.

As Duke wants to recover $1.5 million in costs related to the plant, the state office that advocates for its customers – the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor – wants IURC to more closely scrutinize why Edwardsport’s operation has been such a miserable failure. The much-delayed and fought-over plant had a $1.4 billion cost overrun and as a result is adding an average 16 percent increase to Hoosier State customers’ electric bills.

“The ratepayers of Duke Energy should not be mandated to bear the risks and most of the costs of this boondoggle,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, to the Indianapolis Star. Olson’s organization has been a longtime critic of Duke Energy and the Edwardsport project specifically.

Duke has argued that it would need 15 months for the plant to become fully operational. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, after the three-month blunder late last year, power production “slowed to a crawl” in January due to mechanical problems. The company claimed it moved up planned routine maintenance to February, which extended its period of diminished activity.IGCC

“It’s a large, complex project, and it has taken time to work out technical issues,” said Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere to the IBJ.

For the customers there is a huge difference between attaching the cost of Edwardsport’s “issues” to its initial construction costs vs. charging for ongoing maintenance. A settlement limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are responsible for $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under ongoing upkeep.

Those representing the grassroots of Indiana don’t appear to want to cut Duke any slack. Olson has been unrelenting, and in early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor sharply criticized the utility as “a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” An OUCC official testified, “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.” Continue reading

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Supreme Court says “Yes” to the Cross State Air Pollution Rule

April 29, 2013- by John Blair, valley watch.net editor

Today, in 6-2 decision and an opinion written by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the US Supreme Court gave EPA the go ahead to implement the conditions of its Cross State Air Pollution Rule and that is good news for the tri-state region of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.Under the Cross State Air Pollution Rule or CSAPR as it is known, 28 states covering most of the east except for New England are required to create a new State Implementation Plan or SIP that calls for reduced pollution of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide mostly from more than 1000 coal fired power plants that generate electricity.

AEP Rockport 2

It is unclear just how the CSAPR rule will affect the massive Rockport power plant since it’s owner, American Electric Power recently signed a consent decree allowing it to avoid placing scrubbers on that facility until 2028. Graphic ©2013 BlairPhotoEVV

The rule was originally designed to force “upwind” states to reduce their pollution to the point that “downwind” states can achieve the health based National Ambient Air Quality Standards for both ozone and fine particles.

Valley Watch has long fought for cleaner, safer air in the tri-state community and we applaud the fact that we can now move forward with implementation of CSAPR. It will be interesting to see just how much air quality improves over the next few years as increasing numbers of coal plants are mothballed or retired due to this and other rules, including one on air toxics that are going to be implemented.

 

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New Report Finds Energy Efficiency is America’s Cheapest Energy Resource – Energy Efficiency Costs Utilities 2 to 3 Times Less Than Traditional Power Sources; Average of 2.8 Cents per Kilowatt Hour

March 25, 2014-Press Release from the American Council on an Energy Efficient EconomyEditor’s note: As this report seas being published, Indiana Governor, Mike Pence decided to allow Senate Bill 340 to become law, essentially eliminating the only policy Indiana has requiring energy efficiency goals and mandates. Now, Indiana is a state without any sort of efficiency mandate.Indiana Flag scream

According to a new report released today by ACEEE, energy efficiency is the cheapest method of providing Americans with electricity. Energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing energy waste cost utilities only about three cents per kilowatt hour, while generating the same amount of electricity from sources such as fossil fuels can cost two to three times more.

“The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t have to produce in the first place,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “Our new report shows that when utilities are examining options on how to provide their customers with cheap, clean electricity, energy efficiency is generally the best choice.”

“Why build more expensive power plants when efficiency gives you more bang for your buck?” said Maggie Molina, Utilities, State and Local Program Director and author of the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs. “Investing in energy efficiency helps utilities and ratepayers avoid the expense of building new power plants and the harmful pollution that plants emit.”

The report looks at the cost of running efficiency programs in 20 states from 2009 to 2012 and finds an average cost of 2.8 cents per kWh—about one-half to one-third the cost of alternative new electricity resource options, as illustrated by the following graph from the report:

c-ee-cost-graphLevelized costs of electricity resource options. Source: Energy efficiency data represent the results of this analysis for utility program costs (range of four-year averages for 2009-2012); supply costs are from Lazard 2013.

The report analyzes energy efficiency costs from states across the country, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Other Key Findings Include:

  • At an average of 35 cents per therm, natural gas utility energy efficiency programs are also highly cost-effective (in 2013, the national average natural gas commodity price was 49 cents per therm).
  • Both electricity and natural gas efficiency programs have consistently remained low-cost resources over the past decade, which shows the reliability of efficiency as a long-term resource.
  • Each dollar invested in electric energy efficiency measures yields $1.24 to $4.00 in total benefits for all customers, which include avoided energy and capacity costs, lower energy costs during peak demand periods like heat waves, avoided costs from building new power lines, and reduced pollution.
  • Incorporating higher levels of energy efficiency in long-term planning can protect utilities and their customers against volatile and rising costs of traditional energy resources.

To read the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs, visit: http://aceee.org/research-report/u1402

Permission is granted for media outlets to use the graph above. To download visit:http://aceee.org/files/image/store/ee-cost-graph.jpg

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.

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